"Although worn out by years of service to his country,
Washington reluctantly accepted the presidency of the United States.
Probably no other man could have succeeded in welding the states into a lasting union.
Washington fully understood the significance of his presidency."
Accepting The Presidency
Taking office (Apr. 30, 1789) in New York City,
Washington acted carefully and deliberately, aware of the need to build an executive
structure that could accommodate future presidents.
Hoping to prevent sectionalism from dividing the new nation,
he toured the New England states (1789) and the South (1791).
An able administrator, he nevertheless failed
to heal the widening breach between factions led by
Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson
and Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton.
Because he supported many of Hamilton's controversial fiscal policies--
the assumption of state debts, the Bank of the United States, and the excise tax--
Washington became the target of attacks by Jeffersonian Democratic-Republicans.
Washington was reelected president in 1792,
and the following year the most divisive crisis
arising out of the personal and political conflicts within his cabinet occurred
--over the issue of American neutrality during the war between England and France.
Washington, whose policy of neutrality angered the pro-French Jeffersonians,
was horrified by the excesses of the French Revolution and enraged by the tactics of Edmond Genet,
the French minister in the United States,
which amounted to foreign interference in American politics.
Further, with an eye toward developing closer commercial ties with the British,
the president agreed with the Hamiltonians on the need for peace with Great Britain.
His acceptance of the 1794 Jay's Treaty,
which settled outstanding differences between the United States and Britain
but which Democratic-Republicans viewed as an abject surrender to British demands,
revived vituperation against the president,
as did his vigorous upholding of the excise law during the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania.
Portrait just before his fairwell address.